TTC #3 – take not the Lord's name in vain

A couple of thoughtful questions first.


What do we learn or lose by following or breaking this commandment?

It’s not that the Lord will get his feelings hurt or anything like that. I think it has more to do with us taking control of ourselves. James 1:26 and all of chapter 3 are great reminders that what we say has important consequences.

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”

“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”

Speaking is an action, it is doing. It can’t be undone. And with Mormon 7:7 and 3 Nephi 27:19 in mind (only the guiltless and unclean are to dwell with God eternally and receive salvation), we see that if we can not control our language, or more specifically, if we talk bad or misuse the name of the very person who is giving us eternal life, then we do not deserve to receive the gift of Atonement from him.

If everybody were to practice control over their language, beginning with not taking the Lord’s name in vain, then there would be less harsh words, less vulgarity, less mocking of things sacred. More importantly, we would have to acknowledge our dependence and relationship with God. We would show proper respect to our God and creator by not misusing his name. Our relationship with God and with others would be better if we practiced self-control of our language. Our communication would be clearer and more accurate, there would be less misunderstanding between people, and more respect for others.

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4 thoughts on “TTC #3 – take not the Lord's name in vain

  1. ammon

    Gordon B. Hinckley, “Take Not the Name of God in Vain,” Ensign, Nov 1987, 44

    Here is a great talk from Gordon B. Hinckley on the matter of the third commandment. Quite relevant to our day, 22 years later, is his description of society’s degradation in conversation. I was quite shocked, and unfortunately still, to hear so much swearing at my school. In a university setting, where even “learned professors” have not the self control nor presence of mind to keep their language clean. I would think that with learning and education, one would improve their quality of speech, if anything as a sign of their intellect, if not because their nature and character improves with the increase in knowledge.

    Pres. Hinckley quotes George Q. Cannon who observes that the angels of heaven don’t use such language, and so neither should we.

    For giving us encouragement to repent, he quotes the Heber J. Grant quote about overcoming bad habits and character traits. “President Heber J. Grant was wont to say, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased” (see Conference Report, Apr. 1901, p. 63).”

  2. ammon

    Robert L. Millet, “Honoring His Holy Name,” Liahona, Apr 1998, 18

    Another great talk about the third commandment. Here are a few quotes and comments.

    “In a world where upright and moral people would never murder, steal, or commit adultery, it is surprising how unthinkingly some take the sacred name of God in vain. Why is it that people can be so careful in keeping the commandments from Sinai that pertain to human relationships but be so careless with the dignity and sanctity of the name of Deity? The answer, I think, is that the third commandment has as much to do with the way we live and the way we are as it does with the way we speak. It is tied to our eternal perspective—the way we think and act upon sacred things.”

    The first few commandments definitely deal with our relationship with deity. Our society is certainly degrading pertaining to sacred things. Nothing much is sacred anymore.

    Millet offers three ways that we can take the Lord’s name in vain. In recognizing these ways, we can avoid them.

    1. We take his name in vain when we use vulgarity and profanity. Again, it’s abusing the sacred, as if it were common.
    “The increase of profanity and vulgarity in music, books, television, and movies reflects the vulgarity of our times. To be vulgar is to be crude, coarse, or indecent. It is to treat sacred things as common or ordinary. Perhaps people’s inhumanity to others is related to their neglect of sacred matters; the growing harshness, crudeness, and insensitivity in society may correlate directly with denying, defying, or ignoring God. When we love the Lord and cherish his word, we seek always to act and speak with reverence toward him. On the other hand, one who does not know God and finds no personal value in worship or devotion cannot understand the meaning of holy and holiness. Such a person may have no restraint in speech, no hesitation to profane the sacred.”

    2. We take his name in vain by breaking our oaths and covenants.
    “Covenants are two-way promises between us and God. All gospel covenants and ordinances are administered and entered into in the name of Jesus Christ; nothing can be done for the salvation of humankind in any other name or by any other authority. Thus, to knowingly violate our covenants made in his name is to take the name of the Lord in vain—to take lightly or treat as meaningless our sacred and solemn obligations. God will not be mocked (see Gal. 6:7), nor will he suffer that his holy ordinances be mocked or treated lightly.

    Further, those who have entered into the covenants of the gospel are under sacred obligation to build up the kingdom of God. To refuse callings, neglect our duties, or fail to do our part is to fail to bear the name of the Lord honorably. It is to take his name in vain.”

    3. We take his name in vain by being light-minded and irreverent.
    “It occurred to me then, and has many times since, that we need not be involved with profanity to be guilty of taking the name of God in vain. We need merely to treat without serious thought the charge we carry as members of the Lord’s Church to speak and act in his name.

    To be guilty of taking God’s name in vain is to participate in sacred ordinances lightly or unworthily, to pretend faithfulness when our hearts or hands are unclean.

    Although the joy and satisfaction that derive from living the gospel must not be kept a secret, Joseph Smith taught that “the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 137).”

    So, in summary, taking the Lord’s name in vain is when we have abused and mistreated our relationship with God. We all have a relationship with God, whether we believe or not, for we are all his spirit children.

  3. ammon

    Spencer W. Kimball, “President Kimball Speaks Out on Profanity,” New Era, Jan 1981, 4

    In this talk by Pres. Kimball, he tells the now classic story about when he was in the hospital and someone took the Lord’s name in vain. While on a gurney and somewhat sedated, Pres Kimball still had the capacity and bravery to rebuke the attendant. Here is the story as he tells it.

    “In the hospital one day I was wheeled out of the operating room by an attendant who stumbled, and there issued from his angry lips vicious cursing with a combination of the names of the Savior. Even half-conscious, I recoiled and implored: “Please! Please! That is my Lord whose names you revile.”

    There was a deathly silence; then a subdued voice whispered, “I am sorry.” He had forgotten for the moment that the Lord had forcefully commanded all his people, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7).”

    One reason people use for speaking the Lord’s name in vain and otherwise swearing is the convoluted notion that it is cool, intelligent, and normal to do so.

    “If mankind could but come to see indecency as an indication of weakness, not strength and not manhood, as stupidity and not sophistication, then he would come to see more clearly the strength of Jesus Christ, the most honest and decent individual who ever lived on the face of the earth.”

    It brings to mind 2 Nephi 15: 20 which pronounces a wo upon those who call evil good and good evil.

    A quote from George Washington shows the low level to which our military has stooped:

    “George Washington also set us a good example in this regard. When he learned that some of his officers were given to profanity, he sent a letter to them on July 1, 1776, from which we quote:

    “The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in our American army, is growing into fashion. He hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of heaven on our arms if we insult it by our impropriety and folly. Added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.””

    We have the stereotype of soldiers being a foul-mouthed lot, and even the phrase “curse like a sailor” show that we are under the condemnation and lack of blessings we receive from heaven.

    Pres. Kimball gives us council on what it means to be a Latter-day Saint in regards to our speech:

    “Speaking the Lord’s name with reverence must simply be part of our lives as members of the Church. For example, we, as good Latter-day Saints, do not smoke. We do not drink. We do not use tea and coffee. We do not use dope. By the same token, we do not use foul language. We do not curse or defame. We do not use the Lord’s name in vain. It is not difficult to become perfect in avoiding a swearing habit, for if one locks his mouth against all words of cursing, he is en route to perfection in that matter.”

  4. ammon

    Here’s a lesson from the Family Home Evening Resource Book.

    “Profanity,” Family Home Evening Resource Book, (1997),215

    In it is a good story about a boy who makes a covenant with a friend to never swear. Years later, under a stressful situation of being dragged by a horse, he swears and takes the Lord’s name in vain. He shortly got free of the entanglement on the horse, he dropped to his knees and plead for forgiveness from breaking his covenant with his friend, and offending God.

    There is also a list of scriptures and a hymn:

    of Atonement from him.


    Leviticus 19:12 (Thou shalt not profane the name of God.)

    Matthew 12:36 (We will be judged by every idle word.)

    Matthew 15:11 (A man is defiled by what comes out of his mouth.)

    Ephesians 4:29 (Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.)

    Colossians 3:8 (Put off filthy communication out of your mouth.)

    James 1:26 (If any man bridleth not his tongue.)

    Moses 6:57 (No unclean thing can dwell with God.)

    See also “Profanity” in the Topical Guide.


    “More Holiness Give Me,” Hymns, no. 131.

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